Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I don't own the rights to this music

One of the things driving me out of the PD cone is the Newton-esque rule that for every PAS action there is an extraordinary and disproportionate pile of forms to fill out, to which I have a reaction not unlike hives.

Just this morning, one of the staff came to me bearing a grant form. "Katie, we didn't check these three boxes on the small grant we just signed. At my grants briefing in Islamabad, they said the boxes should be checked." I eyed the photocopy in his hands. The form had at least 25 distinct check-boxes, none of which particularly excited me. "What do those three boxes indicate?" He read them aloud. "... and the last one is 'FOG': Fixed Obligation Grant." "Do you know what that is?" He had to admit that he did not. Neither did I. Some quick googling brought up a lot of websites dealing with USAID. I began to feel queasy.

"You know," I explained to him in my best philosopher king tone, popping some TUMS, "when a system is opaque and difficult to navigate, is it any wonder that people find ways to circumvent it or even ignore it? I'm not advocating breaking rules, and I'm not even saying systems need to be simple, but they should be intuitive. Graceful even. As a rule of law issue, I think streamlining of systems is very important. You shouldn't have to work to figure out what federal law you're committing yourself and your future progeny to when you sign a contractual document that could come back to destroy your career. Plus," and here I thought I had the real deal clencher, "the fact that we've never checked any of those three boxes before and yet never experienced a delay in disbursement of funds indicates to me that they might not be so important as Islamabad would have you think."

He listened placidly while I framed a case against ✓✓✓, nodding periodically. His counter argument, however, was damning: "Yes, well, Islamabad said we should check them." I folded mindless origami out of a loose coffee filter to keep my fingers from twitching.

"I'll check the last two, but not the first one. It says we're attaching something to the grant form that we don't actually attach. Check the box above it instead."

"Are you sure? Islamabad said..."

"Yes, I know what they said. It's okay; they don't have to sign it -- I do."

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